I’ve had three encounters now with Air China, and each time, I acted surprised when I’m horribly disappointed with their customer service. You’d think I’d learn my lesson sooner or later.
I won’t completely rehash the old issues, but I’ll give you a brief synopsis.
First, I was in Hong Kong during Typhoon Vincent on a frequent flyer award ticket. I few multiple Star Alliance partners on this trip. My flights from Hong Kong to LA were on Air China. The second largest Typhoon in Hong Kong history, Vincent closed down the airport for 2 days and left people stranded. I called Air China and asked them about being rescheduled and they informed me that due to flooding in Beijing, they could get me from Hong Kong to Beijing but there was nothing to LA for 3 days. Since I didn’t want to be stuck in the airport in Beijing for 3 days I asked them to rebook me on another airline. They refused. After 3 calls to Air China, and speaking with a supervisor, I was told that they wouldn’t change it since it was a frequent flyer ticket. I ended up on a three-way call with Air China and US Airways (where I booked the ticket). The US Airways agent was SO frustrated with Air China herself , because they weren’t following the proper procedures, that she told them to hang up and she rebooked the flight for me. This was a huge exception because once travel has started, changes usually can’t be made at all and certainly wouldn’t be made by US Airways.
The second experience came two weeks ago when I missed my flight. Yes, it was my fault I missed my flight – I made a silly mistake and thought my flight was 1pm, not 1am. However, it took 4 calls to Air China to find out that they would not change the ticket for the next day and that I’d have to pay over $3000 for the change, even though there were 12 seats open in business class and more than 30 open in coach. In the end, as I wrote about last week, I bought a new ticket on United and submitted a refund request for the entire Air China ticket.
The most recent experience comes with requesting a refund for that cancelled flight. I submitted the request via the web – that’s the only way to submit a refund request. I got an auto-email response saying they would review my request for a refund and let me know within 7 days if the request is approved or not. What? I bought a refundable ticket, so why would it need to be approved? I could live with that, it’s what happened next that frustrated me. On day 7, yes, day 7, I got an email saying the refund was approved and that it would take 6-8 weeks for the refund to process. Six to 8 weeks? That’s insane. It’s not like they’re sending me a check, they’re crediting my credit card. So, yes, I called Air China. The challenge is that I had to call the US center in LA, not the China center and since I’m in Bangkok, that made for a very late call. Once again they were of no help. All I got was “yes, it takes 6-8 weeks.” No one could, or would, tell me why. They really didn’t care, they were reading a script I’m sure. They refused to provide a supervisor to talk with or any other number to call to speak with someone else about this.
I’m very worried about my upcoming flights home on Air China at the end of this week. I hope things go smoothly, but based on experience, I’m not betting on it.
I know how much people complain about the US based carriers, but honestly, I think there are so many international carriers that are 100 times worse and Air China, in my opinion is leading the pack with poor customer service.